Boring gameplay and control issues bury any good ideas found in Wordshift Academy.
Using games as a teaching tool can be a powerful avenue of education. Gaming’s increased role in educating both children and adults is becoming a major part of the industry. So when a new game comes around that aims to expand word power and teach fun facts, there’s a ton of potential to be unlocked. Then, there’s Wordshift Academy, a word game filled with facts and trivia, but plagued with a serious case of boring.
Wordshift Academy is grounded on a very basic idea. Players are given a grid filled with colored shapes and a few letters. They’re also given a pool of blocks filled with letters. To complete a round, players must accomplish two goals in the time limit: fit the blocks in the correct spaces, and order them so the letters form a sentence. If this process sounds easy, it’s because it is. The time limit doesn’t provide much of a challenge, and the puzzles also lack any sort of real difficulty.
Failure is an option in Wordshift Academy, but it’s not from the game being too difficult. Because the game is based around arranging letters, there are always potential moves that can be ignored, such as starting with a period or placing certain letters next to one another. When starting a new round, some of these instances may not be apparent, and players may need to make a guess or two to make sure the pieces are correct. If the move is wrong, the player loses a life. Once all lives are gone, most of the game is unplayable until the player buys more lives.
There are other nagging issues with Wordshift Academy. The menu system can be confusing, the gameplay screen is cluttered, and trying to place a piece may not work on the first (or second, or third) try. These issues are enough to hurt the experience, but the limited lives can force some players to not play the game. More lives can be purchased using in-game coins. Coins are gathered from completing normal stages and daily puzzles. They can also be purchased with real money. The problem is that the amount of free coins is limited, and if the player can’t afford more lives, they’re stuck either waiting for the next daily puzzle or paying for coins. Typically, the game is easy enough where this scenario may not often pop up, but players who get stuck on the wrong end of control issues—or those who like guessing—may spend much more time waiting than playing.
On top of all that, Wordshift Academy just isn’t fun. The facts are amusing, filling in some of the words can be tricky, and the speed-based ranking system places a much-needed emphasis on speed. On paper, these sound like quality tools, but the pieces come together in a way that makes it feel like a chore. Much like the gameplay, the audio and visuals don’t do much to grab the player’s attention, and the sub-par controls cause far more frustration than fun.
It’s a shame that Wordshift Academy leaves so much potential wasted. In a market where new word games release weekly, it’s always nice to see one take a new approach. On that end, it’s easy to appreciate what the game has to offer. It’s sad that the game’s approach is buried under a sea of boredom, technical issues, and the ability for some players to get stuck in a daily loop of waiting. Patience is a virtue, but that patience feels much more rewarding when you’re waiting for a fun game.